Natalie O’Brien on the dual responsibility of managing both MCEC and new Nyaal Banyul convention centre

MCEC chief executive Natalie O'Brian is excited about the opportunities in Geelong.

CIM spoke with Natalie O’Brien, Melbourne Convention & Exibition Centre (MCEC) chief executive, about helming both MCEC and the newly branded Nyaal Banyul Geelong Convention and Event Centre which is due to open in 2026.

How are you managing the responsibilities of both venues at this stage? We’ve got a project team who are working closely with consortium Plenary Conventions on really making sure that everything works operationally. We are also starting to explore what the model will look like in terms of being a multi-site venue by looking at the strategy and corporate services that make sense for that enterprise. 

How will the two venues work together? The peak times in this business (MCEC) where we just cannot fit people is an opportunity to look at Geelong.

We’ll probably be able to bring in staff from across both venues, so there’ll be opportunities that we’ll be able to collaborate and work together.

There are plenty of synergies to be tapped between the two convention centres.

What are the target markets for Nyaal Banyul? We know that regional businesses travel regionally for conferences, events and team building and those sorts of things.

There are also a lot of really important businesses that have been moved to the Geelong region which is transitioning from a blue collar to white collar economy. Melbourne is also a really important market for regional Victoria.

Being an events centre, we think it will have broad use. A lot of the spaces are multi-purpose and can run concurrently as well. There might be surprises for us as well in terms of what the market might look like. But we’re clear about the flexibility of the space and the numbers that we can hold.

Will you transfer the same operating models from MCEC to Nyaal Banyul? I think in terms of customer experience, again we’ll be taking some of the learnings that we have. But I also think when you have a start up, there’s a great opportunity to ask what would we do a bit differently in terms of the customer journey and how we use data, so that we can make sure that customer journey is really clear all the way through.

What are you most excited about with Nyaal Banyul? Geelong is my [old] hometown so it’s a great opportunity for me to lean into a community that I basically grew up with. I think this is a really exciting opportunity, not only from an economic impact but from a community pride perspective.